THE FRIENDLY GHOST
SALT LAKE CITY – A small, feathered raptor-like dinosaur thought to be 125 million years old has been discovered in eastern Utah, scientists announced Thursday.
The Geminiraptor suarezarum was bipedal and, like other raptors, had a large head. Most of the known raptors discovered in North America date to between 72 million and 75 million years ago, which makes the discovery the oldest reported specimen of its kind.
"They were fast, they were smart, they had big eyes and very dexterous hands," said James Kirkland, a paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey.
It was the eighth new species of dinosaurs discovered in Utah this year. Seven of those were found on federal land.
The G. suarezarum was discovered on federal land near Green River, an area about 180 miles southeast of Salt Lake City that has become notable for the number of new species discovered there. The College of Eastern Utah's Prehistoric Museum in Price is curating the bones and overseeing the excavation of the quarry where the bones were found.
The quarry was found seven years ago by identical twins Celina and Marina Suarez of San Antonio, Texas, for whom the new species was named. The 29-year-old paleontologists were helping Kirkland excavate a different quarry just over a mile away.
The quarry, now called "Suarez Sister's Quarry," has since yielded two dinosaur discoveries. Kirkland said that they are also studying bones that may prove to be a third new dinosaur.
"We both knew it would be significant," Celina Suarez said. "But we never thought it would have this much."
Having a dinosaur named after them is unbelievable, she said.
"As kids, we always kind of thought we might dig up a dinosaur in our backyard," she said. "We didn't know we would have to drive to Utah to do it."
Kirkland said that honoring the sisters reflected not only their discovery of the quarry, but also their passion for paleontology.